It’s like I’m a self-directed learner or something. Some of my ALF friends write amazingly, and I really wanted to be like “Hey, just write and get all that fascinating, useful, beautiful storytelling out of your head and onto this page so I can read it. Then let me fix the punctuation and grammar so other readers don’t get distracted by technicalities. You flow, I’ll frame. Good?” And it was good! Except that editing people’s websites and blogs requires both permissions and know-how. Fortunately, enough of my friends like my copyediting (and are way too busy writing to worry themselves about it) that they quickly offered to become teachers and allies.
So I’ve been practicing for three weeks now…and I’ve gotten comfortable enough to have found some composition flow of my own.
I’ve been writing questions on forms and answering them for the FAQ & Challenging Questions sections of both the website and Starter Kit. I’ve been writing descriptions of tools and practices, re-wording the explications of our principles, creating a narrative walk-through of an ALC-NYC day, describing what facilitators do, drafting comparisons of ALC to other alternative education philosophies, expanding that to a history of education contextualizing ALC and those philosophies, and in between editing everybody’s everything (that I have their consent to edit, of course).
One of the questions I wrote on one of the forms was How did you get here?
It’s a good question. I’d love to hear your answer.
Threaded through mine are various subplots, including the one which explains why I have enough books to even think about writing a history of education (mostly schooling…mostly European and American industrialism-and-beyond schooling…). It’s a pretty interesting subplot, if I do say so myself, filled with existential crisis and paradigm shifts and lots of subversion. It’s really barely a subplot, if I’m honest. I never forget it’s there. Tonight, though, I rediscovered a subplot I had forgotten about: the one where I almost survive getting educated without it beating the beauty out of my writing. Without it beating the love of writing out of me. Without it beating the idea that I could write things worth reading (even without statistics!) into particles of dust that blew out of my dreams on the wake of a beetle wing. Which is to say, nearly without me noticing.
I don’t really want to answer How did you get here tonight. And I don’t want to get into the kinds of unschooling adults involved with ALCs go through…it’s nearly midnight and my eyes hurt from hours of Google Docs and website gazing.
What I do want to do (and I’m almost done) is to acknowledge–we talk about “unschoolers” and we mean kids doing not-school. They’re building. They’re creating. They’re moving forward. But mostly they’re not having to un-anything, because they haven’t been schooled. It’s us who have the work of unschooling ourselves, the task of deconstructing while we’re inventing and building on the same patches of ground. I see lots of us doing it–parents, ALFs, college kids who come in to intern, slightly-older-than-college kids who come into volunteer–I see you. And you’re amazing. And it’s so hard sometimes. And it’s so scary sometimes. And it’s so magical so often.
I want to acknowledge you. And us. Because I tend to keep my messier processings tucked behind my right ear or slipped between my shoulder blades…but…sometimes one falls out and I want to shine a light on it. I want to cry out “Hey! Look at this dull, useless, ugly story! I’ve been trying to edit it into something worthwhile, but it might be beyond saving. Only problem is, once I scrap it, I have to write a new one…not just edit, but write.”
We’ll laugh. You’ll reassure me I get to use lots of semi-colons, parentheses, and lists. And I’ll happily go back to finishing that Starter Kit chapter, as if I weren’t just remembering what it feels like to write with conviction(.)